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Five men’s events to watch at USATF Outdoor Championships

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The featured men’s events at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships have a bit of everything.

Dominance from Olympic medalists Ryan Crouser (shot put) and Paul Chelimo (5000m). Promise in the form of Noah Lyles (100m), Michael Norman (200m) and Grant Holloway (110m hurdles). Overcoming adversity — Matthew Centrowitz (1500m) and Clayton Murphy (800m).

A Lyles-Norman showdown in the 200m would have enough spice to headline this meet on its own, but Lyles decided against the double. That enhances the likelihood that the biggest story in Des Moines could come from one of many events on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

There is no Olympic or world championships team to qualify for this year, which is why established stars like Justin GatlinChristian Coleman and LaShawn Merritt are out.

But their absences could yield the emergence of first-time national champions. Just look at 2014, when that list included Tianna BartolettaKori CarterJeff HendersonSam Kendricks and Joe Kovacs, all of whom have since won Olympic or world titles.

USATF Outdoors: TV Schedule | Entries | Women’s Preview | Men’s Preview

Five men’s events to watch this week:

100m (Final — Friday, 8:30 p.m. ET, Olympic Channel, NBC Sports Gold)
World gold and silver medalists Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman are missing, but two more impressive sprinters this outdoor season go head-to-head. Noah Lyles, who finished fourth in the 200m at the 2016 Olympic Trials at age 18 and is since undefeated in that event, drops down for his first 100m at a major meet as a professional. Lyles has the joint-fastest 200m in the world this year. He chose the 100m this week for two reasons — he can improve more in the 100m than the 200m over three rounds and to try something different given his race schedule the rest of the summer is tailored for the 200m. Lyles is forgoing a matchup with Michael Norman in the 200m this week, but he should have his hands full with Ronnie Baker. Baker, who grew up running cross-country and avoiding the moose in Alaska, has been the most impressive American in the 100m this year. Baker beat a slightly injured Coleman at consecutive Diamond League meets in May and, with favorable wind, should improve on his personal best of 9.93 and overtake the fastest time in the world this year (Zharnel Hughes‘ 9.91). As should Lyles, who also has a personal best of 9.93.

Shot Put (Saturday, 3:45 p.m. ET, NBC, NBC Sports Gold)
All four men from Rio and the 2017 Worlds are here, including Olympic gold and silver medalists Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs. Crouser, whose father, two uncles and two cousins were elite throwers, has won 13 of his last 14 head-to-heads with Kovacs, who was taught to throw by his mom in his Pennsylvania high-school parking lot. Crouser also won his last 13 of 14 head-to-heads with Rio Olympian Darrell Hill, according to Tilastopaja.org. Crouser also has the top 23 throws by an American this year out of his 24 total legal throws in 2018 competition, according to Tilastopaja.

1500m (Final — Saturday, 5:40 p.m. ET, NBC)
Is Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz vulnerable? He was upset at nationals last year by Robby Andrews. Centrowitz revealed afterward that he competed on 10 days of training after a series of health problems that included an emergency-room visit with a viral infection. Then at worlds, a listless Centrowitz finished last in his first-round heat and said he was unable to get more than two straight weeks of healthy training all season. The 28-year-old heads into Des Moines ranked behind Andrews and Johnny Gregorek on best times this season. At last month’s Pre Classic, Centrowitz was beaten by a countryman (Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy, not racing the 1500m this week) at a major race at Hayward Field for the first time in five years.

800m (Final — Sunday, 4:13 p.m. ET, NBC)
Maybe the deepest field at nationals. The six fastest Americans since the start of 2016 are here. Clayton Murphy took bronze at the Rio Olympics but withdrew during 2017 Nationals with sore hamstrings and missed worlds. Boris Berian went from flipping burgers at McDonald’s to winning the 2016 World Indoor title and placing second at the Olympic Trials. He didn’t race at all in 2017 (Achilles) and ranks 186th in the U.S. this year. Donavan Brazier won the 2017 U.S. title and 2018 U.S. Indoor title at age 20 but hasn’t raced outdoors this year. Drew Windle took silver at world indoors on March 3. NCAA champion Isaiah Harris and Erik Sowinski are the fastest Americans this outdoor season.

110m Hurdles (Final — Sunday, 5:52 p.m. ET, NBC)
An intergenerational group with 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt, 2016 Olympic Trials winner Devon Allen and Grant Holloway, a rising University of Florida junior who won all four NCAA hurdles titles his first two years and ranks second in the world this season. Merritt underwent a kidney transplant in 2015, then missed the 2016 Olympic team by .01 and missed a national title in 2017 by .07 behind Aleec Harris (who is also in this field). Allen, the former University of Oregon wide receiver, looked primed to break 13 seconds after he won the trials in 13.03, but that remains his personal best. Holloway clocked his personal best of 13.15 on May 13 and is the only American to break 13.20 this year. It’s been nearly three years since an American broke 13 seconds, the longest drought in more than two decades.

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MORE: Usain Bolt’s Olympic spikes stolen

Omar McLeod preserves Jamaican glory; U.S. shut out (video)

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Omar McLeod finally gave Jamaica a gold medal to celebrate at the world track and field championships.

After Usain Bolt and Elaine Thompson lost 100m finals, it was McLeod who won the 110m hurdles title in London on Monday night.

“The camp was really daunting, and I really wanted to bring that spark back,” McLeod, the Olympic champion who led from hurdle one and clocked 13.04 seconds, told media in London. “I particularly wanted to come out here and dedicate this win to Usain Bolt‘s retirement.”

McLeod held off Russian Sergey Shubenkov by one tenth of a second. Shubenkov, the 2015 World champion, was excluded from the Olympics because of Russia’s ban for its poor anti-doping record. Russia is still banned. Shubenkov, who has never failed a drug test, was one of many Russians allowed to compete in London as a neutral athlete.

Hungary’s Balazs Baji grabbed bronze, while 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt was fifth. Merritt, who earned 2015 World bronze with kidney function at less than 20 percent, was in the mix for bronze up to the final hurdle.

“I failed to execute late in the race, which is my specialty,” Merritt said. “Finishing is what I do best.”

The U.S. failed to earn a world 110m hurdles medal for the first time, one year after failing to earn an Olympic 110m hurdles medal for the first time (excluding the 1980 Moscow Games). Merritt was the lone U.S. finalist.

“I’m not even supposed to be running,” said Merritt, who underwent a kidney transplant four days after 2015 Worlds and missed the Rio Olympic team by .01. “So just me being here in the final is definitely a blessing.

“Now that I’ve had a year of proper training, the next year that I run will definitely be better.”

Full worlds results are here.

In other events Monday, Kenyan Faith Kipyegon took gold in the women’s 1500m, .17 ahead of a hard-charging Jenny Simpson. Scrutinized South African Caster Semenya earned bronze with a late surge.

Kipyegon, the Rio gold medalist, became the first Kenyan woman to win a world 1500m title.

Simpson captured her fourth global medal following her 2011 World title, 2013 World silver medal and 2016 Olympic bronze medal.

Simpson, 29, transitioned to the 1500m fully in 2011, after making the Beijing Olympics in the steeplechase, and has turned into one of the greatest American distance runners in history. In her five global 1500m finals, she has earned four medals. In the outlier, she ran the last 600 meters with one shoe.

Semenya, scrutinized after a gender-testing controversy in 2009, made the podium in her first 1500m outside of Africa since 2011. Semenya is an overwhelming favorite in the 800m (final Sunday) after taking Olympic gold in that event.

Allyson Felix and Shaunae Miller-Uibo set up a rematch in Wednesday’s 400m final. Felix topped Miller-Uibo for the 2015 World title, but Miller-Uibo edged Felix in Rio with that famous finish-line dive.

Wayde van Niekerk, looking to join Michael Johnson as the only men to sweep the 200m and 400m at an Olympics or worlds, headlined the qualifiers from the 200m heats.

Van Niekerk races the 400m final Tuesday, the 200m semifinals Wednesday and, if he advances, the 200m final Thursday.

Both the 200m and 400m are lacking superstars. Neither 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt nor 2012 Olympic champion Kirani James is in the 400m final. Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin skipped the 200m this year, and Olympic silver medalist Andre De Grasse withdrew before worlds with a strained hamstring.

Olympic champion Kerron Clement led the qualifiers into Wednesday’s 400m hurdles final.

In the triple jump, Yulimar Rojas earned Venezuela’s first world medal. It was gold. Rojas reversed the Rio Olympic one-two with Colombian Caterine Ibarguen, edging her by two centimeters.

Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk repeated as world champion in the hammer throw, one year after repeating as Olympic champion. Wlodarczyk, who last lost in June 2014, threw 77.90 meters to win by six feet, but she was 17 feet shy of her world record from last August.

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WORLDS: TV Schedule | 5 Men’s Races to Watch | 5 Women’s Races

Without Bolt, a new 200 world champ will take crown for first time since 2007

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LONDON (AP) Usain Bolt will surrender another world title. This one, without even taking the track.

The Jamaican great is skipping the 200 meters at the world championships, bringing an end to his string of four straight titles in his favorite event.

This was planned. The loss to Justin Gatlin – along with up-and-coming sprinter Christian Coleman – in the 100 meters? Not so much.

So far, Bolt’s farewell tour in London hasn’t exactly going according to design, and he’ll be only a spectator when the heats of the 200 begin Monday. He still has the 4×100 relay at the end of the meet.

“I’m just disappointed I couldn’t do better for (the fans), but that’s how it goes sometimes,” Bolt said after his bronze-medal finish on Saturday. “The support has been outstanding throughout the years.”

With no Bolt, the 200 is wide open for the first time since, well, Tyson Gay, held off a rising Bolt at the 2007 worlds in Osaka, Japan.

Waiting in the wings is Wayde van Niekerk, the South African who is currently the world and Olympic 400-meter champion. He’s one of the favorites in the 200 as well. The semifinals are on Wednesday and the final is Thursday.

Like Van Niekerk, Isaac Makwala of Botswana is trying his hand at the 200-400 double. He has the top time in the 200 this season and a healthy amount of respect for Van Niekerk.

“Wayde van Niekerk is my brother. We want to conquer the world together and make the final for Africa,” Makwala said. “He is so friendly and a lovely guy.”

MORE: Tori Bowie wins 100 meters by .01

A look at the events from Day 4 of the world championships:

SLAM DUNK: Polish hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk‘s best toss this season is more than 6 meters (20 feet) better than anyone else. The two-time Olympic champion will be the overwhelming favorite to defend her world title.

OF MERRITT: Aries Merritt is one of the feel-good stories of the championships. He won a bronze medal in the 110-meter hurdles with a failing kidney in 2015. Now, with a functioning kidney thanks to a transplant from his sister, Merritt is back in the final. Another hurdler earning a lane is reigning champion Sergey Shubenkov, the Russian who’s competing as an independent with his country’s team suspended because of a doping scandal. “It will be an interesting final,” Merritt said.

HOP, SKIP & JUMP: Caterine Ibarguen of Colombia almost never loses in the triple jump. She’s looking for her third straight world title against a field that includes Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela. Ibarguen edged Rojas for gold at the Olympics in Brazil.

FOUR LAPS: Olympic 800-meter champion Caster Semenya of South Africa stepped up to the 1,500 meters and will be a contender for a medal. She’s been embroiled in the controversial debate in track and field over women with very high levels of testosterone being allowed to compete. Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia is the defending champion in the event.

TAYLOR MADE: American triple jumper Christian Taylor begins his quest for a third straight world title. He’s focused on breaking the world record of 18.29 meters (just over 60 feet), set by Jonathan Edwards of Britain in 1995. Taylor’s top mark is 18.21 (59-9). Should he ever achieve that, Taylor hinted he might switch over to the 400 meters. “I love the 400,” Taylor said. “I would just run with pure joy then, knowing that everything on my bucket list was really ticked off.”

MORE: Men’s marathon | Women’s marathon